Project Talent

Gehlen Catholic Class of 1960 reunion Project Talent

Project Talent is a nationally representative longitudinal study of older adults who attended high school in the U.S. in 1960. When Project Talent began, it was the largest and most comprehensive study of high school students ever conducted in the U.S. The study included a 5 percent random sample of all U.S. high school—including public, private, and parochial schools—from every state except Alaska. Students from all economic, cultural, and social backgrounds participated in the base year data collection, which included a battery of tests and questionnaires administered over two days. 

Project Talent researchers followed the students across early adulthood, surveying participants at 1, 5, and 11 years following their anticipated high school graduation. These surveys gathered information on respondents’ educational attainment, occupations, family formation, military service, income, and health. The goal was to better understand what experiences and influences helped prepare students for careers and life after high school.

Project Talent logo

As participants transition into later life, Project Talent has evolved into a study of aging and health. With its unique size, demographic diversity, and comprehensive data from 1960 and beyond, Project Talent offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand factors that influence health across the life course. Since 2010, the National Institutes for Health have funded several studies involving participants, including the Project Talent Twins and Sibling Study, the Project Talent Aging Study, and the study on Socioeconomic Gradients in Mortality among Project Talent participants. These studies aim to generate new evidence on the cumulative impacts of early-life social determinants of health and lived experiences on later life health outcomes. This research can help communities, practitioners, and policymakers develop programs, practices, and policies to support healthy aging across the life course. 

Our current research focuses on three areas:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD). Research in this domain aims to identify adolescent antecedents and protective factors for Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
  • Health Equity. Much of our research centers on describing how systemic and structural discrimination perpetrated by education, social, and health policies lead to health disparities. We examine how social determinants of health across the life course confer differential risks across groups of people. Our goal is to generate evidence to support systems and policy changes to promote health equity across persons living in the U.S.
  • Civil Rights, Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice. Project Talent participants are leaders in civil rights and social justice movements. Having experienced first-hand the impacts of transformational changes such as school integration, the Civil Rights Act, the expansion of women in the workforce, and the launch of the Environmental Justice movement, we learn from their experiences and outcomes how to improve systems and policies in social, economic, and environmental domains, with the goal of fostering equity and improving opportunities for all people.